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Bombers_of_the_Second_World_War

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									Title:
Bombers of the Second World War

Word Count:
1156

Summary:
The life of a second world war bomber pilot was probably the most
dangerous of all the armed forces of the second world war. Less than 50%
survived their tour; each tour consisted of roughly 25 operations or
raids with the chances of survival for each raid being 96%. That is what
the commanders always told the crew before a raid to keep up morale. But
if you compound 96% over 25 times, the survival rate was closer to 50%.


Keywords:
history, military, military history, second world war, planes, bombers


Article Body:
The Lancaster is probably the most famous of all the bombers of the
second world war. According to Capt. Donald Macintosh (ex -second world
war bomber pilot, and author) it was a lot smoother to fly than the
Wellington; the experience of which was close to that of a fighter plane
(with no payload, of course).

Survival rates on bombers.
The life of a second world war bomber pilot was probably the most
dangerous of all the armed forces of the second world war. Less than 50%
survived their tour; each tour consisted of roughly 25 operations or
raids with the chances of survival for each raid being 96%. That is what
the commanders always told the crew before a raid to keep up morale. But
if you compound 96% over 25 times, the survival rate was closer to 50%.
When Donald looked at his Florida academy group photograph after the war,
he counted around half of those still alive.

WHAT KILLED BOMBER CREWS?
Training
Enemy fighter planes
Lack of rear radar (called Monica: only introduced later in the war)
An incompetent navigator
An incompetent rear gunner
Flak
Poor attitude
Bad luck

TRAINING - Rushed training caused a few deaths. President Roosevelt
wanted to train pilots within 2 years which would be woefully short in
peacetime, but due to the high chop rate they had no choice. Donald
sometimes saw burnt-out bombers on the runway from fatal mistakes made by
cadets. A fairly experienced New Zealand pilot and his crew died in a
ball of flames in the air during training. They speculated it was because
one of the crew members had smoked during the flight.
Also, the bombers used in training were not maintained properly, if at
all. All the good maintenance staff were looking after the bombers flying
real operations. This could cause engines to fail, which killed a few
crew members.

In fact, Donald had several very near misses himself in just such
scenarios. The excerpt: "The Landing" from his book is just one example
of inexperience nearly killing him. "Russian Mechanics" is another; the
Russians didn't have the competence or equipment to maintain planes as
Donald found out.

ENEMY FIGHTER PLANES - Fighter planes out-gunned and could out-maneuver
bombers. The typical fighter tactic was to dive under the bomber and
swing around and up, shooting up at the undercarriage. This wasn't
without total risk to the fighter, as the explosion of the payload could
also destroy the fighter if he was too close. Donald experienced a Focke
Wulf 190 first-hand using just this tactic.

The best defence was the cork-screw dive. This meant diving 45 degrees to
the left, then 45 degrees to the right and then fly back upwards 45
degrees left. The odds though were still against you. At night time, i f
an enemy fighter was detected soon enough, the cork-screw dive was very
effective at shaking them off. .

LACK OF REAR RADAR - Rear radar, or Monica as it was called, saved
countless bomber crew's lives. This enabled the crew to detect an enemy
fighter sneaking up behind very early. The cork-screw dive maneuver was
then quite effective. Using Monica, during night -time raids especially,
allowed the bombers to easily shake off enemy fighter planes. Monica
saved Donald's life when it was introduced. It was a pity that his
Squadron Leader also didn't have it when he battled a German ace. See
"Squadron Leader" for this story.

AN INCOMPETENT NAVIGATOR - According to Donald, the navigator was
absolutely crucial to survival. If you got lost over enemy territory, you
had had it. Not only could you accidentally fly over enemy fighter bases
or flak installations, but your fuel would run out. Donald's bomber crew
experienced their fuel running out twice, once in training and once over
Russia.

AN INCOMPETENT REAR GUNNER - Although, the rear gunner was not as
important as the navigator, he needed to be very alert for detecting
enemy fighter planes coming in from behind. He would call out the ranges
and shout out the exact time when the pilot should cork -screw. The actual
gunfire was usually inadequate to bring down the fighters; it distracted
them more than anything else.

FLAK - At the end of the war flak was largely ineffective. This was
because the German flak crews were the old men or inexperienced young
boys who weren't trained well enough to operate them properly. Of course,
you could be exceedingly unlucky. If a professional flak crew were
shooting at you, then you would be in trouble. When Donald was carrying
out a raid over Holland, he flew over German Naval Gunners who shot down
the plane three behind him, killing all but three of her crew.
POOR ATTITUDE - Those pilots and crew who didn't put everything into it,
who didn't really want to be there, were often the ones who got what they
wished for. Donald tells of an Australian pilot Tyrell, who had an
apathetic attitude always asking when his leave was etc. He died on his
first mission over Stuttgart.

Another important factor was team work amongst the crew members. Some
crews couldn't get along with each other. They constantly argued, even
disobeying orders. Unsurprisingly, this raised the probability of not
making it over a raid.

Nervous disorders were a common problem with crew members who were
nearing the end of their active duty. In fact, according to Donald, at
this stage of their careers just about everybody had some sort of nervous
disorder, whether it was a nervous tic or the hand shaking when lifting
up a glass or tea cup. It was far worse with bomb-aimers. They saw
everything below: flak exploding just beneath them etc. Bomb aimers were
usually relieved earlier of their duties than most since after a while
they would crack up. "The Mad Gunner" is a short story of a bomb-aimer
who had done around 70 raids and had completely lost it. He was allowed
to continue because he loved doing it and also the fact that he was very
good at his job.

BAD LUCK - A lucky flak shot, or something critical overlooked in
maintenance was what usually happened. When Donald had to choose his
bomb-aimer, he had a choice between Pete or his friend, George. They
flipped a coin and Pete became his bomb-aimer and lived; George, however,
never made it to the end of the war.

ABOUT THE AUTHOR
Capt. Donald Macintosh flew over 40 raids from D day until May 1945,
including:
3 attacks on battleship “Tirpitz” (sunk) including flight to Russia;
1 destroyer, Gdynia harbour, night; prob sunk;
2 heavy gun emplacements;
3 dams;
2 oil refineries;
4 viaducts;
3 bridges;
3 submarine pens;
1 ammo dump;
2 flying bomb sites;
2 cities;
Finally, Hitler’s home at Berchtesgaden, April 25th.

After the war he flew for another 30 years in civil flying some of which
was almost as lethal as wartime. Based in the Bahamas, he flew Yorks and
Lancastrians for British South American Airways and then went on to fly
the world’s first passenger jet, Comet 1, to Africa and the Far East.

								
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